Abington steps on gas, handles Lower Merion in District 1-6A semifinals

PHILADELPHIA >> The Abington boys basketball team held a comfortable advantage for most of its 72-61 win over Lower Merion Tuesday night in the District 1-6A semifinals at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University.

The few times the game was close, the No. 2 seeded Ghosts showed why they are heading to the district championship game for the third time in the last four years.

Abington opened the game with a 7-0 run and led 15-8 after eight minutes. Senior guard Robbie Heath and junior forward Eric Dixon each had six points in the first quarter.

“It was big,” Abington coach Charles Grasty said of the fast start. “I think we jumped out 7-0 or something. We made some shots. At this level a lot of it is mental. You have high school kids that come out, make their first shot and you see them jumping around high-fiving. Sometimes you come down, we’ve been on the other side, you miss some shots, your heads start going down. To see us come out and make some shots early — it was big. I thought that helped us a lot.”

The third-seeded Aces used an 11-2 run in the second quarter to cut its deficit to two, 24-22, but Abington (21-5) finished the final two minutes strong and went into the break with a 32-27 lead.

Lower Merion (22-5) battled back to within a possession again in the third quarter, 38-36. Heath threw down a dunk and thought he was fouled and was assessed a technical foul. Aces’ Jack Forrest made both free throws to keep it a two-point, 40-38. Heath responded 25 seconds later with a traditional three-point play to put Abington ahead by five. That margin held until the end of the third, 48-43.

Then the Ghosts landed the definitive blow. They went on a 7-0 run over the first 2:01 of the fourth to take a 12-point lead, 55-43, and never looked back. Dixon scored nine points in the fourth and Heath had six.

“Coach always says it’s a game of runs,” Dixon said. “They’re going to make their’s. We’ve got to make our’s better.”

“We’ve definitely been here before,” Grasty said. “Our guys know that teams are going to make runs. That’s a heck of a team. There’s four teams left in the district — that’s a heck of a team. We just wanted to keep our composure, take good shots and feed the big fella (Dixon) and when they collapsed on him just have confidence, step up and shoot it.”

Abington’s Brandon Coffman drives to the basket during the Ghosts’ District 1-6A semifinal game against Lower Merion on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 in Philadelphia. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Abington will face No. 1 Plymouth Whitemarsh at 6 p.m. Saturday for the district title at the Liacouras Center.

Heath finished with a game-high 24 points and Dixon added 22.

“I think we feed off each other,” Dixon said of himself and Heath. “That’s my brother. Every time he does good it makes me feel better. I get hype when he scores, he gets hype when I score. That’s my brother. We feed off each other.”

Heath moved into second all-time in scoring in Abington history with 1,536 career points. Dixon moved into fourth with 1,514.

Forrest led the Aces with 21 points and Steve Payne had 17.

Abington 72, Lower Merion 61
Lower Merion 8 19 16 18 — 61

Abington 15 17 16 24 — 72
Lower Merion: Forrest 7 2-2 21, Hairston 1 0-0 3, Klevan 2 0-0 5, Martin 3 0-0 6, Payne 6 1-1 17, Taylor 4 0-0 9. Total 23 3-3 61.
Abington: Heath 9 6-6 24, Brown 1 2-2 4, Coffman 3 0-0 6, Monroe 5 0-0 11, Nolan 2 0-0 5, Dixon 8 5-5 22. Total 28 13-13 72.
Three-point goals: LM: Forrest 5, Hairston, Klevan, Payne 3, Taylor. A: Monroe, Nolan, Dixon.

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